ANTHONY FOLEY WAS modest enough about the current state of Irish rugby to admit that the team do not ‘have a God-given right to win at the Aviva’.
If we ever had, someone clearly forgot to pass the memo on to head office.
Since Lansdowne Road was revamped and renamed Ireland have won just five matches in 12 outings.
The situation became so dire in spring, before Italy and Scotland came to town, that Irish supporters were hankering back to the glory days at Croke Park.
One of the side’s five victories at the Aviva came against Argentina in 2010 when Stephen Ferris and Gordon D’Arcy crossed for tries in a 29-9 win.
A trophy – the Admiral William Brown Cup – has been minted for this Saturday’s match but Ireland, and Foley, will cherish a win for the ranking points it will deliver rather than an adornment for the IRFU trophy cabinet.
A rivalry on simmer
‘Axel’ Foley, now on the Irish coaching ticket, played the Pumas for the first time in Buenos Aires in 2000.
Playing with Simon Easterby and David Wallace in the Irish backline, Foley was out on his feet at the end of a frantic game that yielded eight tries and saw the hosts win 35-23.
Revenge was taken, personally, in 2002 and 2004 at Lansdowne Road.
Foley celebrates beating Argentina in 2002. (©INPHO/Patrick Bolger)
He missed out on the World Cup humbling of 1999 and had retired from international rugby before the Pumas outclassed Ireland at the 2007 event. Foley told TheScore.ie:
We’ve always come up against each other at crunch times in the past. There’s a lot of history between the sides but there a lot of new faces in both squads now.
“A lot of the guys wouldn’t have played against Argentina before.”
He added, “In the autumn internationals this year and a lot of games have gone down to the wire. It is important to have that cup final mentality.
“We have to make sure we bring all our experience from previous big games in there.”
Having matched South Africa, according to Foley, for intensity and attitude ‘apart from a couple of minutes before and after half-time’ and filleted Fiji at Thomond Park, the ‘cup final mentality’ has been instilled in the Irish squad.
Argentina, having competed in the Rugby Championship are already showing the cohesive signs of having played eight games together in three months.
Foley acknowledges the visitors will bring a ‘very direct and physical approach’ to Saturday’s match but believes there are subtleties in their half back pairing and backline.
He said, “They’ve got Francisco Bosch, who plays at Biarritz, [Gonzalo] Tiesi – these guys will burn you if you give them the chance.” Foley added:
You look at the try they scored in the first minute against France. It looked like nothing but a couple of offloads and they go in under the posts.
“Juan Imhoff, [Juan Martin] Hernandez, they’re all household names up here. They all play with the big clubs in France.”
The winless streak, he points out, is over but the senior players that have stepped up to form the new leadership group in the squad will have their work cut out for them.
“You’ll always learn about players in pressure situations,” said Foley.
“There will be one or two that get out there and lead and others that do the thankless jobs, lead from the background and make sure everyone is ok.
“It is unique in a way that you have that pressure in an autumn international and you have consequences three years down the road.”